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Article

John F. Pile

(b Resistencia, June 1943).

American architect, industrial designer and museum curator of Argentine birth. He received a Master of Fine Arts degree in architecture from Princeton University, NJ, and then taught at Princeton, at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh and at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm, Germany. From 1969 to 1976 he was Curator of Design for the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. In 1972 he produced the exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape and a related book for MOMA. The exhibition offered historical background and a presentation of contemporary Italian avant-garde work and theory. His architectural works include the Lucille Halsell Conservatory at San Antonio, TX (1987); Banque Bruxelles Lambert offices in Milan (1981), Lausanne (1983) and New York (1984); and offices for the Financial Guaranty Insurance Company in New York (1986), for which he won the International Interior Design Award. An innovative designer, Ambasz sought to reinterpret the poetic aspects of Modernism and the relationship between architecture and the landscape. As an industrial designer, he developed furniture, lighting, a diesel engine, and packaging and graphic designs. His work has won many honours and awards....

Article

Kathleen James-Chakraborty

After the closure in 1933 of the Bauhaus in Berlin, its staff and students dispersed. Many found their way to the USA, where they became highly influential teachers as well as artists and architects. The pedagogical methods developed at the school, particularly in the preliminary course, became commonplace in all levels of art education, as the former centrality in America of life drawing to instruction in the visual arts was now challenged by experimentation with abstract principles of composition and the qualities of individual materials.

Josef and Anni Albers family were the first Bauhäusler to immigrate to the USA. They arrived in 1933 and quickly took up positions at Black Mountain College, NC. In 1950 Josef became chair of the department of design at Yale University, New Haven, CT, from which he retired in 1958. His increasingly rigorous investigations into geometry and colour culminated in a series of paintings entitled ...

Article

Monica Bohm-Duchen

(b Haag, Austria, April 5, 1900; d Santa Barbara, CA, Sept 30, 1985).

American painter, designer, photographer and typographer, of Austrian birth. After serving in the Austrian army (1917–18), Bayer studied architecture under Professor Schmidthammer in Linz in 1919 and in 1920 worked with the architect Emanuel Margold in Darmstadt. From 1921 to 1923 he attended the Bauhaus in Weimar, studying mural painting (with Vasily Kandinsky) and typography; it was at this time that he created the Universal alphabet, consisting only of lowercase letters. In 1925 he returned to the Bauhaus, then in Dessau, as a teacher of advertising, layout and typography, remaining there until 1928. For the next ten years he was based in Berlin as a commercial artist: he worked as art manager of Vogue (1929–30) and as director of the Dorland advertising agency. Shortly after his first one-man exhibitions at the Galerie Povolotski, Paris, and at the Kunstlerbund März, Linz (both 1929), he created photomontages of a Surrealist nature, such as ...

Article

Margot Gayle and Carol Gayle

(b Catskill, NY, March 14, 1800; d New York, April 13, 1874).

American inventor, engineer, designer and manufacturer. He trained as a watchmaker’s apprentice in Catskill, NY, worked as an engraver in Savannah, GA and again in Catskill. About 1830 he moved to New York City to promote his inventions. He secured many patents for various devices, including clocks, an eversharp pencil, a dry gas meter and a meter for measuring fluids. His most remunerative invention was a widely useful grinding mill (first patented 1832), which provided steady income throughout his life. During years spent in England (1836–40) he was granted an English patent for a postage device and won £100 in a competition with his proposal for a pre-paid postal system. He also observed the extensive use of iron in the construction of British factories, bridges and large buildings. After a trip to Italy, he conceived the idea of erecting prefabricated multi-storey structures with cast-iron exterior walls that reproduced Classical and Renaissance architectural styles. Returning to New York in ...

Article

Anna Rowland

(Lajos)

(b Pécs, May 21, 1902; d New York, July 1, 1981).

American furniture designer and architect of Hungarian birth. In 1920 he took up a scholarship at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna, but he left almost immediately to find a job in an architect’s office. A few weeks later he enrolled at the Bauhaus at Weimar on the recommendation of the Hungarian architect Fred Forbat (1897–1972). Breuer soon became an outstanding student in the carpentry workshop, which he led in its endeavours to find radically innovative forms for modern furniture. In practice, this meant rejecting traditional forms, which were considered symbolic of bourgeois life. The results of these experiments were initially as idiosyncratic as those of other workshops at Weimar, including the adoption of non-Western forms, for example the African chair (1921; see Rowland, 1990, p. 66) and an aggressively castellated style inspired by Constructivism.

Breuer was impressed by De Stijl, whose founder Theo van Doesburg made his presence felt in Weimar in ...

Article

Sherban Cantacuzino

(Wintemute)

(b Tokyo, Dec 17, 1895; d Vancouver, June 17, 1958).

English architect and designer of Canadian descent. The son of Canadian missionaries, he studied engineering at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and moved to London as a student in 1922. He became a journalist, frequented artistic circles and by 1927 had begun to design. Most of his executed designs date from the 1930s, the era of the MARS Group, of which he was a founder-member, and other manifestations of the rise of the English Modern Movement, in which he played a leading part. Although much of Coates’s work as an interior designer has been destroyed, his major architectural works survive.

Coates originally projected a pair of linked houses, influenced by Le Corbusier, for Lawn Road Flats (1932–4), Hampstead, London, but the block of flats he designed was as frank and original an expression of functional requirements as any building of the Modern Movement. The four-storey block was built in monolithic reinforced concrete and consisted of 22 flats designed in accordance with the proceedings of the CIAM II in Frankfurt in ...

Article

revised by Margaret Barlow

(b Blue Earth, MN, Nov 23, 1894; d Vero Beach, FL, April 20, 1989).

American interior and industrial designer. Deskey gained a degree in architecture and studied painting before working in advertising. From 1922 to 1924 he was head of the art department at Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA. In 1921 and 1925 he made trips to Paris, where he attended the Ecole de la Grande Chaumière and the Académie Colarossi, before returning to New York in 1926 as a champion of modern art and design. In 1926–7 he created the city’s first modern window displays for the Franklin Simon and Saks Fifth Avenue department stores. In 1927 he was joined by the designer Philip Vollmer, and the partnership became Deskey–Vollmer, Inc. (to c. 1929). Deskey expanded into designing interiors, furniture, lamps, and textiles, becoming a pioneer of the Style moderne (as Art Deco was known in America). His earliest model for the interior of an apartment was shown at the American Designers’ Gallery, New York, in ...

Article

Gilbert Herbert

(Adolf Georg)

(b Berlin, May 18, 1883; d Boston, MA, July 5, 1969).

American architect, industrial designer and teacher of German birth. He was one of the most influential figures in the development of the Modern Movement, whose contribution lay as much in his work as theoretician and teacher as it did in his innovative architecture. The important buildings and projects in Gropius’s career—the early factories, the Bauhaus complex at Dessau (1925–6), the Totaltheater project for Berlin, the housing estates and prefabricated dwellings—were all more than immediate answers to specific problems. Rather, they were a series of researches in which he sought prototypical solutions that would offer universal applicability. They were also didactic in purpose—concrete demonstrations, manifestos, of his theories and beliefs. His theories sought to integrate the individual and society, art and industry, form and function and the part with the whole. He left Germany for England in 1934; three years later he emigrated to the USA, where he continued to teach, write and design for the rest of his life....

Article

Leland M. Roth and Gordon Campbell

(John)

(b Vienna, Sept 22, 1890; d New York, Dec 27, 1965).

American architect, stage designer, furniture designer and writer of Austrian birth. In 1920 he worked with Adolf Loos in Vienna. He was also in contact with the artists associated with De Stijl and began experimenting with innovative theatre designs. In 1924 he produced the Endless Theatre design. The ‘Endless’ was a double-curved shell of reinforced concrete that could enclose any irregularly traditional divisions into floor, wall, and ceiling but offered the inhabitant an open interior that could be modified at will. For the theatre he adapted the ‘Endless’ by devising a double-spiral stage interconnected by ramps and rings of spectator seats. Kiesler believed that the Endless Theatre, without proscenium or curtain, projecting out into the audience, with perpetually moving walls bathed in light of ever changing colour, would promote greater interaction between actors and audience.

For the celebrated Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925...

Article

Louise Noelle

(b Mexico City, May 7, 1931; d Mexico City, Dec 30, 2011).

Mexican architect and furniture designer, active also in the USA. He graduated from the Escuela Nacional de Arquitectura, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, in 1953. He began as a draftsman in the studio of José Villagrán García, the leader of Mexican Functionalism, becoming his partner between 1955 and 1960. During this period he was a follower of the International Style, as seen in the Hotel María Isabel (1961–1962; with Villagrán García and Juan Sordo Madaleno), Mexico City. In 1960 he set up in partnership with Noé Castro (b 1929) and Carlos Vargas (b 1938), specializing in the design of factories and office buildings, the most notable project of this period being the office building for Celanese Mexicana (1966–1968; with Roberto Jean) in Mexico City, with its prismatic outline and technical brio in the use of the hanging structure. In the late 1960s, influenced by ...

Article

Richard Guy Wilson

(Fernand )

(b Paris, Nov 5, 1893; d Monaco, July 14, 1986).

American industrial designer of French birth. He studied (1918) for a degree in engineering at the Ecole de Lanneau in Paris before serving in the French Army. In 1919 he immigrated to the USA (naturalized 1938). After a brief period as a window-dresser he worked as a freelance fashion illustrator for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue (e.g. Metropolis advertisement for Saks Fifth Avenue from Vogue, 15 March 1927; see Wilson, Pilgrim, and Tashjian, p. 86). Working in advertising design steered him towards industrial design. His disappointment with the quality and vulgarity of American products led him in 1929 to design and re-style radios for Westinghouse and duplicating machines for Gestetner. In 1934 he designed the Coldspot refrigerator for Sears Roebuck. Loewy’s success was based on his rehousing of American products in streamlined forms in the 1930s. From the 1940s to the 1970s he worked on a number of commissions, such as the corporate logos of many major businesses, including ...

Article

Geoffrey R. Edwards

(b Melbourne, Feb 9, 1929; d New York, April 19, 2005).

Australian sculptor and designer, active in the USA. He studied aeronautical engineering and later industrial design at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, but left without finishing the course. From 1949 to 1953 he worked as an industrial designer, specializing in furniture. Marketed widely in Australia during these years, his furniture was distinguished by its simplicity. It was constructed with plain, undisguised materials such as steel rods, timber laminates, and cord; his tables, chairs, and shelving systems exercised a delight in linear and open structure that conveyed an impression of virtual weightlessness.

In his free time Meadmore began to produce sculptures, carving wooden shapes whose forms were similar to those of tensioned strings, and from 1950 to 1953 experimenting with mobiles. After extensive travel in 1953 in Europe, where he was particularly impressed by modern sculptures that he saw in Belgium, he produced his first large abstract sculptures in welded steel. Some of these, for example ...

Article

Peter Carter

(b Aachen, March 27, 1886; d Chicago, IL, Aug 17, 1969).

German architect, furniture designer, and teacher, active also in the USA. With Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, and Le Corbusier, he was a leading figure in the development of modern architecture. His reputation rests not only on his buildings and projects but also on his rationally based method of architectural education.

He was born Ludwig Mies but later adopted his mother’s name, van der Rohe. The son of a master stone mason, Mies van der Rohe had no formal architectural education. He attended the Domschule in Aachen until 1900 and then the local trade school (1900–02) while working on building sites for his father, from whom he acquired a respect for the nature of building materials. The town’s many fine medieval buildings stimulated a youthful interest in architecture, and their characteristically clear and honest construction exerted a lasting influence upon his creative work. Two years as a draughtsman and designer for a firm specializing in stucco decoration followed, before he left for Berlin in ...

Article

Gordon Campbell

(b Spokane, WA, 1905; d 1990).

American furniture designer and manufacturer. The son of Japanese parents, after an early career as an architect he turned in 1940 to furniture-making, initially in Seattle and then, after a period of internment, in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where in 1946 he estabished an independent workshop. The workshop produces both series and individual designs, always in solid hardwood with no veneers; designs reflect both American and Japanese traditions, but are contemporary rather than revivalist. Although Nakashima is sometimes described as one of the founding figures of the American craft movement, his workshop used machine tools and, in the case of his series designs, production methods to create furniture that looks hand-crafted. The workshop is still a family business, and is now run by his daughter Mira (b 1942).

The Soul of a Tree: A Woodworker’s Reflections (Tokyo and New York, 1981) D. Ostergard: George Nakashima: Full Circle (New York, 1989)...

Article

Walter Smith

(Fette)

(b Boston, Aug 12, 1910; d New Canaan, CT, July 18, 1977).

American architect and designer. He studied at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, gaining a bachelor’s degree in classics in 1932 and a master’s in architecture in 1938. He then joined the firm of Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer in Cambridge. From 1939 to 1946, with a break for service in World War II, he was Director of the Department of Industrial Design at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and in 1947 he founded his own architectural and industrial design practice, Eliot Noyes & Associates. An advocate of functional Modernism, Noyes’s work is firmly grounded in the tradition of Gropius, Breuer, and Le Corbusier. He advocated simplicity of form and truth to the nature of materials, seen particularly in his houses, for example Graham House (1970), Greenwich, CT. Here he employed open interior spaces and clear geometry, with a suppression of ornament that betrays the influence of Ludwig van der Rohe; a free-standing fireplace dividing the living and dining space and the use of stone partitions are features that also became hallmarks of his house designs. Noyes’s public buildings, for example the IBM Building (...

Article

Jean A. Follett

(b Boston, MA, 1842; d Boston, MA, 1910).

American architect, stained-glass designer, furniture designer, and photographer. Preston was the son of Jonathan Preston (1801–88), a successful builder in Boston. William completed a year’s study at the Lawrence Scientific School in Cambridge, MA (later incorporated into Harvard University), and then went to Paris where he enrolled briefly in the Atelier Douillard. He returned to Boston in 1861 to work with his father, with whom he remained in partnership until the latter’s death. William then practised independently until his own death.

Preston was a prolific architect, designing over 740 buildings in the course of a career spanning 50 years. His early work was in the French Renaissance style, as seen in his Boston Society of Natural History building (1861–4), a tripartite structure with its floor levels arranged to equate with the proportions of the base, shaft, and capital of a Classical column. It has monumental Corinthian columns and pilasters and a central pediment flanked by a balustraded parapet. He worked in a typically eclectic manner during the 1870s and became an extremely fine designer in the Queen Anne Revival style in the 1880s and early 1890s. The varied massing, stained-glass windows, terracotta, moulded brick, and carved-wood detail of the John D. Sturtevant House (...

Article

Leland M. Roth

(b Brocton, NY, March 3, 1831; d Chicago, Oct 19, 1897).

American industrial designer and philanthropist. His father was a skilled house builder living in Albion, NY, on the Erie Canal. When the canal was widened, Pullman worked with his father, moving houses that were too near the new canal banks. He moved in 1855 to Chicago, then a small, fast-growing city built on mud-flats only slightly above the level of Lake Michigan. There were severe drainage problems, and the city authorities undertook to elevate existing buildings and build higher streets. In 1855 this work had just begun, and Pullman brought with him the expertise needed to move buildings. Within a year he had established a thriving business.

During the winter, Pullman returned to his family in Albion, experiencing first-hand the rigours involved in long-distance rail travel, and he therefore formed a partnership in 1858 to build railway sleeping-cars. The early models enjoyed modest success and encouraged him to produce a larger, more luxurious version. Built during the winter of ...

Article

Roy R. Behrens

(b Lafayette, AL, Nov 7, 1903; d Columbus, OH, Dec 1, 1981).

American artist, designer and teacher . His childhood interest in drawing was counterbalanced by parallel involvements in science and engineering. He took high school courses in engineering drawing, which he went on to study at Ohio State University (OSU) in 1921. Soon after, he changed his major to architecture, then art, eventually earning a degree in fine arts in 1927. Hired the following year to teach basic drawing, he remained on the OSU art faculty until his retirement in 1974. The most eventful phase of his life began in 1941, when, in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he devised an extraordinary method (which he credited to Rembrandt) of using drawing to improve the visual acuity of students, with the intention that they might then better detect the presence of enemy airplanes. This teaching method, for which he also admitted indebtedness to Paul Cézanne and the Gestalt psychologists, consisted of asking his students to draw from projected slides in a pitch black room called a flash laboratory. Each slide was projected for only one-tenth of a second, in response to which the students drew from memory in total darkness. By collaborating with non-art members of the OSU faculty (especially educational psychologist Ross L. Mooney and optical physiologist Glenn A. Fry), Sherman was able to argue persuasively that the accuracy of his students’ perception had improved markedly by drawing in the flash laboratory, so much so that members of the university football team were required to work with him daily, with the goal of improving their passing. The results of this teaching method were formally presented in ...

Article

Nancy Halverson Schless

(b Philadelphia, PA, 1788; d Nashville, TN, April 6, 1854).

American architect, engineer and painter. Among the first generation of native-born architects, he was an influential designer in the Greek Revival style. Over a period of almost 50 years he executed more than 70 commissions, many of them in Philadelphia. His last major building was the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, built from 1845.

Through his father, a master carpenter who had worked on Latrobe’s Bank of Pennsylvania, Strickland was apprenticed to Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1803, remaining in his office for about four years. During his apprenticeship he studied Latrobe’s folios of Greek antiquities, including James Stuart’s and Nicholas Revett’s Antiquities of Athens, 4 vols (1762–1816), as well as publications by the Society of Dilettanti. By 1807 he was in New York with his father, working as a painter of stage scenery. The following year he returned to Philadelphia, where he received his first major commission: a design for the city’s Masonic Hall (...

Article

Gavin Macrae-Gibson

American architectural, urban planning, exhibition, and furniture design partnership formed in 1980 by Robert Venturi , John Rauch (b Philadelphia, 23 Oct 1930), and Denise Scott Brown [née Lakofski] (b Nkana, Northern Rhodesia [now Zambia], 3 Oct 1930). Venturi studied architecture at Princeton University, NJ (BA 1947, MFA 1950), and between 1950 and 1958 he worked in various offices including those of Oskar Stonorov , Saarinen family, §2 , and Louis Kahn . He also spent a period (1954–6) as Fellow at the American Academy in Rome. In 1957 he joined the staff of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, the start of an extensive teaching career. He was then in partnership with Paul Cope and H. Mather Lippincott (1958–61), with William Short (1961–4) and from 1964 with Rauch, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1957. Denise Scott Brown studied at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (...